SA mines minister lashes industry CEOs who said country is edging towards failed state

Gwede Mantashe, mines and energy minister, South Africa

SOUTH Africa’s mines and energy minister Gwede Mantashe hit out at industry CEOs who criticised government incompetence saying they were “insulting the state”.

In a combative speech delivered at the Minerals Council’s annual general meeting today, Mantashe also appeared to attack Sibanye-Stillwater by saying certain companies were “dismantling the bargaining system”.

Mantashe recently threatened to withdraw Sibanye-Stillwater’s mining licences after the company said it could wait out a strike underway at its gold mines “for years and years”.

In a speech that lit the touchpaper on a number of controverisal subjects, Mantashe made labour relations a key topic. “We have observed with concern that the industry bargaining system is being dismantled by some companies who are taking the industry back to pre-1983 period where workers were treated as just assets,” he said.

The implication is that Mantashe views the current gold mining strike Sibanye-Stillwater’s fault. He appealed to the sector to “… appreciate that it is the responsibility of all of us to avoid long and acrimonious strike action”.

Commenting on industry criticism of government, Mantashe said he had “… observed a growing temptation to insult the state by strong and powerful mining executives”. They had “… no regard for the industry’s international ratings and its relations with government which makes it difficult to process industry issues,” he said.

Mining industry executives have been outspoken this year about failing state capacity to provide services to communities, especially located near their mines.

In February, Nico Muller, CEO of Impala Platinum said Covid-19 exacerbated the failures of local government resulting in “elevated absenteeism and heightened community dissatisfaction and lawlessness”.

Following Sibanye-Stillwater’s year-end presentation in March, the group’s CEO Neal Froneman commented: “The state of the nation verges on a failed state. Unemployment, inequality and poverty are the basic drivers of unhappiness.”

Alluding perhaps to the organisation whose AGM he was attending, Mantashe said: “The industry must further discuss the role of business associations who also find it fashionable to insult government and the governing party – ANC, projecting them as speaking for the sector”.

Asked if Mantashe’s comments represented a new ebb for industry and government relations, Minerals Council CEO, Roger Baxter said the level of “constructive engagement” between the industry and the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) had been the best in 20 years.

But he added: “Engaging is one thing and doing is another”, referring to the burgeoning backlog in mining and exploration permit applications.

Baxter said the council had been “… putting pressure on government” to resolve outstanding mining permits and exploration rights “that haven’t been issued within the specified time frames”. The DMRE indicated at the Mining Indaba conference in Cape Town that it had “sorted out” another 1,000 applications, but Baxter said he wasn’t sure if that excludes “additional applications taking place in the recent period”.

The DMRE said last year it had a backlog of 4,647 outstanding applications on the three licensing categories: mining permits, mining rights and permit rights. The Mpumalanga regional office accounted for 1,869 of the backlog, followed by Limpopo with 1,054.

South Africa ranked in among the ten least attractive destinations for mining industry investors according to the Fraser Institute survey, published in April. The Minerals Council expressed its concern at the finding but also quizzed the institute’s methodology which was to exclude South African mining company views.

Mantashe acknowledged the Fraser Institute findings, which rank countries by their ability to set down investor-friendly policies, but added that South Africa “must be seen to be working and not merely responding to ratings”.


  1. This minister has made some many mistakes, blocked so many deals. Hundreds of billions have been at stake and tens of billions lost.

    He refuses to meet local and international capitalist investors. He has displayed little to no grasp of the mathematics and science required in business. Economics and management is not only about giving in to union demands.

    So until he improves his negotiating skills, his mathematics, stock market knowledge, labor market knowledge, his international trade knowledge SA’s investment is going to be in a deadlock.

  2. Does the minister really think CEO’s are worried about being fashionable in insulting the state? Surely all that is happening is they are gaining courage to call things as they are. If they don’t and the state fails, like Eskom, Transnet and so many other key function SOE’s they will be held accountable by their own shareholders. Gwede is a complete baby!

  3. So worker must be slaves because of failed state why CEO use state to undermine mineworkers

  4. Ounce the government try forcing large mines and companies to give into workers demands and black mail them by canceling thier mining licenses is the day the investors leave the country. Don’t play with fire!!!!!

  5. I wish somebody will open the eyes of the ANC “selebrities” that those whon vote for them, is suffering the most. Just look at how they dress, what car they drive and yet you get people who go to bed tonight hunger. And then they want to donate money, my and your money, to another country. I hope that they will come to their sensess, if there is any.

  6. But surely Mzansi need to vote in a new government. A government that really cares about the country, not party comradeship. The ANC does not have any relevant leadership right now. Mantashe and a lot more in the ANC are all “drowning men who in desperation have no alternative but cacth on straws each in an attempt to survive the Zondo findings. Mantashe is trying to appease the unions at the expense of right reason and the survival of our country. This is so saaad! D

  7. ” Edging”?. That’s an understatement if ever there was one. It reached and surpassed the tipping point years ago. This is normal commie-speak calliñg the realists unpatriotic etc in order to set their own agenda and avoid responsibility and liability for non and under- performance in their respective portfolios . The sooner he vacates the better for all the industries as a whole then employment figures might actually increase and the fiscus benifit as a whole. The goverment and ruling party has done a fine job destroying everything govmental and non-govmental in it’s endeavours to enrich themselves at citizens expense and then has the temerity to criticise and villify one of the foundation industries that is actually trying to get things going . This is ministerial material ?. The rockfall began a long time ago minister but then I guess you weren’t paying attention. Inflation out of control , fuel prices skyrocketing , capital flight , next to nothing in the way of FDI but the lights are on but no-one home.We have bridged these points not because of private enterprise failings bit government ineptitude and greed. It is what it is. Next stop , the Chinese ?.

  8. This attitude will cost you the next election, Mr Mantashe. You will find that the majority in SA is ussually not the best indicator of sanity concerning matters pertaining to economic growth.

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